09 December 2019

Britain’s blasphemy problem

Blasphemy laws infringe upon the right to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and the necessary need to freely critique ideologies. A 2016 study by Freedom of Thought found that 43 countries allow a prison term for blasphemy, while it is punishable by death in six countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

The UK is free from such laws. And yet blasphemy laws are being tacitly enforced in Britain on a community level.

In 2016, extreme anti-blasphemy attitudes in the UK resulted in the murder of Asad Shah, a shopkeeper from Glasgow, murdered for “disrespecting the Prophet”. He was stabbed multiple times, dragged into the street and stamped on with such force that every bone in his face was broken.

Afterwards, the murderer claimed that, “If I had not done this, others would have and there would be more killings and violence in the world.” He receives fan mail and visits from people who regard him as a hero. [TheArticle] Read more

Blasphemy laws continuing cause for concern for Christians in Pakistan

Six months since Christian Asia Bibi fled Pakistan, after being imprisoned for ten years on blasphemy charges, reports highlight the plight of others accused of blasphemy in the country.

The reports come from multiple sources including the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCRIF) and Humanists International.

The USCIRF reports there are 80 people in Pakistan imprisoned on blasphemy charges.

The latest Freedom of Thought report from Humanists International says Pakistan remains a "perennial offender" in imprisoning people for blasphemy - long after the country's Supreme Court discredited the high-profile case against Asia Bibi.

According to the report: "The authorities prosecuted a total of 1,170 blasphemy cases between 1987 and 2012, with scores of new cases every year. Civil society reports estimate that in 2017 alone at least 50 individuals were imprisoned on charges of blasphemy, with at least 17 facing possible death sentences."

Andrew Boyd from Release International, a charity supporting persecuted Christians told Premier: "Whether you're found guilty or acquitted as Asia Bibi was, it is effectively a death sentence [being accused of blasphemy], there's a number of different forms of it. It could be blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed, it could be something that is said against Muhammad, or it could be disrespecting the Quran."

More than 70 people have been murdered following blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to Al Jazeera. [PREMIER CHRISTIAN RADIO] Read more

Saudi Arabia ends gender segregation in restaurants

Saudi Arabia will no longer require restaurants to have separate entrances segregated by sex, the government says.

Previously, it was mandatory to have one entrance for families and women, and another for men on their own.

The restrictions had already been quietly eased in practice, with many restaurants, cafes and other meeting places no longer enforcing segregation.

A series of sweeping social reforms in Saudi Arabia has been accompanied by an intensified crackdown on dissent.

Earlier this year, a royal decree allowed Saudi women to travel abroad without a male guardian's permission, and in 2018 the Gulf kingdom ended a decades-long ban on female drivers. [BBC] Read more

08 December 2019

General election 2019: Tory chairman 'sorry' for Islamophobia in party

Conservative chairman James Cleverly has apologised for cases of Islamophobia in his party.

Mr Cleverly said he was "sorry" when Tory members and candidates "do or say things that are wrong".

But he added that he was "confident" there was now "a robust mechanism" in place to deal with the issue.

The Muslim Council of Britain has accused the Tory party of having a "blind spot for this type of racism" and of not doing enough to tackle it.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics, Mr Cleverly said an investigation into prejudice in his party will get under way before the end of the year. [BBC] Read more

06 December 2019

Denial, obfuscation, apathy: why it’s so hard to get Islamophobia on the political agenda

Islamophobia is apparently a “natural reaction” to Islam, with the faith being “the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers”. So wrote Boris Johnson in the Spectator in 2005.

Sayeeda Warsi on Tory Islamophobia: 'It feels like I'm in an abusive relationship'

It’s far from the only item on the charge sheet for Johnson’s Islamophobia. He retains Chloe Westley in his team at No 10 despite her having called a far-right activist who has described Islam as “evil” a “hero”; and he gave Zac Goldsmith a position in cabinet despite his racist campaign for mayor of London in 2016. And of course, there is his recent and infamous use of far-right terminology about Muslim women who wear burqas, comparing them to “letterboxes”.

Yet the prime minister’s lack of any acknowledgment of error or wrongdoing on his part and his casual disregard for the impact of his words and actions does not appear to be relevant to large swathes of the media. There is a wealth of evidence of Islamophobia across all levels of the Conservative party. Why does it have so little political traction, and why is it regularly dismissed in mainstream circles? [Guardian Cif] Read more

05 December 2019

Islamist extremists begin to remobilise as they finish prison sentences

An extremist network once led by the hate preacher Anjem Choudary has begun to remobilise as waves of former members leave prison or are released from monitoring measures.

A core group from Choudary’s banned al-Muhajiroun network has returned to Islamist activism after completing terrorism prevention schemes and other controls, according to a report by a commission that advises the Home Office.

The terrorist preacher, who was released from prison last October after serving half of a five-and-a-half-year sentence, was photographed in 2009 with Usman Khan, who murdered two people last week near London Bridge. [The Times (£)] Read more

We cannot afford to be timid about calling out the threat of radical Islam

.... Given the depravity of Khan’s religious views, and the cunning with which he evidently concealed them after his release, no government desistance and disengagement programme was going to deradicalise him.

For all the brow-beating of the British state, and the political ping-pong that has resulted from it, the wrong solutions are being posited to guard against the scale of the threat (even if it is common sense to suggest that those guilty of particularly heinous crimes should serve a longer portion of their sentences than Khan did if they remain a potential security concern).

Part of the problem is that it is increasingly difficult to raise the issue of the menace of radical Islam without being accused of “Islamophobia” by those who have hijacked a noble cause — the fight against anti-Muslim hate crime — and turned it into an attempt to silence all discussion of extreme variants of Islam.

It is perfectly obvious why some Islamophobia campaigners desire such a blanket rallying cry: it masks scrutiny of their own views, which they would be able to promote without fear of challenge.

What is less clear is why politicians and state entities are happy to go along with this charade, when alternative and much tighter definitions of racism against Muslims — such as “anti-Muslim hatred” — exist that would avoid the pitfalls of catch-all Islamophobia definitions while still ameliorating a societal ill. [City A.M.] Read more

Indonesian man FAINTS as he is caned for having pre-marital sex before being revived to receive the rest of his 100 lashes alongside woman he slept with

An Indonesian man who fainted as he was being whipped for pre-marital sex today was revived to receive the rest of his punishment before being rushed to hospital.

Despite international condemnation, public flogging is common for a range of offences banned under local Islamic law in the conservative Aceh region on Indonesia's Sumatra island, including gambling, drinking alcohol, and having gay or pre-marital sex.

Aceh is the only region in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority country, that imposes religious law.

On Thursday, a 22-year-old man - sentenced to 100 strokes - pleaded with a masked Sharia officer to stop lashing his back with a rattan cane before he fainted.

He was revived and given brief medical attention and then the flogging continued. He was later carried off the stage by two guards and rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment. [Daily Mail] Read more

04 December 2019

Switzerland investigates Muslim preacher over welfare fraud

Switzerland-based Muslim preacher Abu Ramadan is under investigation for allegedly committing welfare fraud. He has also been investigated over hate speech.

.... The media reports say the former agronomist received more than CHF590,000 ($598,317) in social assistance between 2003 and 2017. He is accused of concealing income worth tens of thousands of francs that could have led to a lower allocation of welfare benefits. The sums relate to pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia that the preacher accompanied.

Ramadan is reportedly in contact with authorities to “clarify any misunderstandings” but declined making a comment to the press.

It is not the first time that the preacher of the Ar’Rahman Mosque in the western Swiss city of Biel has caused controversy.

The imam, originally from Libya, was investigated over hateful statements he allegedly made against Jews, Christians, Buddhists and Muslim Shiites while preaching. [swissinfo.ch] Read more

02 December 2019

Multiculturalism is undermining democracy

.... The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) has launched a campaign encouraging British Muslim voters to defeat ‘Islamophobic’ Conservative MPs – identifying 14 constituencies of importance under its Operation Muslim Vote campaign. The MPAC’s propaganda is hugely oriented towards territorial disputes in other parts of the world, including Kashmir and Palestine.

As a British Muslim of South Asian origin, I can personally say that I have heard far too much about territorial disputes taking place in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent during the build-up to what is meant to be a UK General Election. The efforts of religious organisations and affiliate bodies for non-UK political parties – large and small – to generate faith-based bloc voting should be a cause for political concern. [Spiked] Read more

01 December 2019

Six Muslim men sentenced to jail, fine for going to waterfall instead of Friday prayers

In what is possibly the first case in the country, six male Muslims, including three teenagers, were sentenced to a month in jail and fined over RM2,000 for skipping out on Friday prayers last August 23.

Khairul Azle Abdul Rasid, 35; Abdul Malek Mohd, 25; Muhamad Hafizi Abdul Razak, 22; Muhammad Aliff Fikri A Mazzani, 19; and two unnamed 17-year-old boys were given the sentence by Syarie judge Nik Mohd Shahril Irwan Mat Yusof at the Hulu Terengganu Lower Shariah Court earlier today after pleading guilty to a charge of deliberately missing the compulsory Friday prayers, Harian Metro reported on its website. [Malay Mail] Read more

28 November 2019

Birmingham mosque attacks: Shia Muslim jailed

A Shia Muslim has been jailed for three years and nine months for vandalism attacks on five mosques in Birmingham.

Arman Rezazadeh, who is of Iranian descent, used a sledgehammer to smash windows and doors in Perry Barr, Aston and Erdington on 21 March.

The 34-year-old admitted religiously aggravated criminal damage.

Judge Michael Chambers QC said Rezazadeh had been "motivated by religious hatred" and all the mosques he attacked were used by Sunni Muslims.

Rezazadeh sparked a major hate crime inquiry supported by anti-terror police, Birmingham Crown Court heard.

He caused damaged put at more than £11,000 in the attacks at Witton Islamic Centre, Al-Habib Trust and Jamia Masjid Ghausia, all in Aston, Masjid Madrassa Faizul Islam in Perry Barr and Jam-E-Masjid Qiblah Hadhrat Sahib Gulhar Shareef in Erdington.

Prosecutor Tom Walkling said the defendant had been drinking alcohol to celebrate the Iranian new year on the eve of the attacks and that he had a history of mental issues linked to cannabis use. [BBC] Read more

27 November 2019

Muslim Council: parties must tackle Islamophobia to win votes

Candidates and parties campaigning in the general election must commit to tackling racism and Islamophobia to win the support of Muslim voters, according to the Muslim Council of Britain.

A manifesto setting out how parties’ policies could affect Muslims has been published by the MCB after consulting its affiliates and communities across the UK.

According to the document, British Muslim Perspectives at the 2019 General Election, there are 26 constituencies with a Muslim population of at least 20% of the total, and two – Birmingham Hodge Hill and Bradford West – with estimated Muslim electorates of over 50%.

Muslim voters could influence the outcome in 31 marginal seats, the MCB said last week. On Friday, it organised its first ever voter registration drive in mosques and community organisations.

The new report calls on British Muslims to ensure “every voice is heard in this election”. [The Guardian] Read more

Sayeeda Warsi on Tory Islamophobia: 'It feels like I'm in an abusive relationship'

.... With the party’s eyes fixed firmly on the election, there could be more trouble on the horizon for the Conservatives. In May, the Muslim Council of Britain filed a complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), urging the watchdog to investigate Islamophobia in the Tory party. Since then, the Tories have submitted evidence and the EHRC – which is separately investigating Labour over antisemitism – says it is still considering whether any action is needed.

Warsi, for one, feels there is more work to be done. She is sceptical about Johnson’s motivation for broadening the inquiry, but says she would still get involved, revealing that a senior party official recently sounded her out about taking part. “If that’s the only way to get scrutiny, I’m not just going to sit back and have a monk [sulk] on, as they say in Yorkshire.” But, she says firmly, she is “not prepared to rubber-stamp some nonsensical inquiry”. [The Guardian] Read more

26 November 2019

Egypt court sides with woman against unequal inheritance law

An Egyptian woman says she’s scored an important legal victory against her country’s inheritance laws, which grant female heirs half of what they grant men.

Huda Nasrallah, a Christian human rights lawyer, says a Cairo court ruled she may inherit the same share as her brothers.

That decision follows a yearlong legal battle she launched after her father’s death. Two previous judges had ruled against her, based on Islamic inheritance laws that favor male heirs.

Nasrallah told The Associated Press on Tuesday she’s “thrilled” by the verdict and hopes it will encourage other women. [The Associated Press] Read more

LGBT teaching row: Birmingham primary school protests permanently banned

Demonstrations against LGBT inclusive education have been permanently banned outside a primary school.

A High Court judge ruled in favour of an exclusion zone to remain around Anderton Park, in Birmingham, which has been targeted by protesters for months.

The protests had an averse effect on pupils, residents and staff, leading to 21 teachers being treated for stress, Mr Justice Warby said.

Campaigners accused the city council of trying to silence debate.

The protests at the school in Balsall Heath aimed to stop LGBT relationships education, with many parents and activists claiming it contradicts their Islamic faith and is not "age appropriate". [BBC] Read more

25 November 2019

Chickens still facing slaughter in pain and fear

Millions of chickens destined for supermarkets and restaurants are being electrically stunned in slaughterhouses in a process that “causes pain and fear”, according to a report by the EU’s food safety adviser.

Vets have called on the poultry industry to stop using electric water baths and switch to more humane methods of stunning birds before they are killed.

KFC, Nandos, Tesco and Marks & Spencer are among the businesses selling meat from birds that have been turned upside down and had their legs jammed in metal shackles on a fast-moving conveyor line. [The Times (£)] Read more

British women ‘being forced into polygamous relationships’ because law lets them down, campaigners say

British women are increasingly being pressured into polygamous relationships or left without child support when relationships break up because UK law does not offer adequate protection to spouses in religious marriages, campaigners have warned.

Activists say there is a growing problem of men “marrying” women in religious ceremonies but refusing to legally register the unions – and subsequently avoiding the financial and other duties owed to a spouse.

Women are being left to go through religious courts, which make rulings that force them to stay with their partners even when they are unhappy, or rule them unable to claim money or property from their de facto husbands after marriages dissolve.

The warnings come after the government intervened via the attorney general in a landmark case last week in an attempt to overturn a family court judge’s decision that a woman was entitled to apply for maintenance payments despite the fact they were not legally married. [The Independent] Read more

24 November 2019

It Can’t Happen Here? Muslim Organization Wants International Law Criminalizing Criticism of Islam

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is made up of 56 nations plus the Palestinian Authority, met Thursday in Jeddah and called for the adoption of an international law criminalizing criticism of Islam. But that kind of law could never be adopted in the United States, could it? Think again.

The OIC’s secretary-general, Dr. Yousef al-Othaimeen, called upon the nations of the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to crack down on speech that was “insulting religions or prophets.” It was clear, however, that al-Othaimeen couldn’t have cared less about speech insulting Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism or any of the revered figures of those religions. He cared only about criticism of Islam.

“There are laws against anti-Semitism and racism,” said al-Othaimeen. “So we request a law against mocking religions.” He didn’t explain why laws against racism should lead to laws against criticizing belief systems, since, after all, contrary to the assumptions of Rachel Dolezal, Shaun King, and Elizabeth Warren, one cannot change one’s race, but one can change one’s beliefs, including religious beliefs. Al-Othaimeen likely knows this, but cited racism because he knows how to pull the right strings to get the Western intelligentsia to do what he wants. [PJ Media] Read more

Thousands protest desecration of Holy Quran

Thousands of people affiliated to religious parties on Saturday gathered in different cities and towns across the country to protest continued attempts of desecration of Holy Quran in Norway, chanting slogans and burning flags and effigies of the Norwegian leadership, and asking the government to sever ties with Oslo to rectify the Islamophobic trend of the Norwegian society.

Addressing the demonstrators, religious leaders warned of a continued agitation campaign if the Muslim rulers do not take immediate action to stop the ugly blasphemous practices against Islam, and demanded that Muslim governments must bring about a global legislation and clamp economic boycott of such countries as a counter measure.

On the appeal of Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Senator Sirajul Haq, JI workers held demonstrations in different cities to condemn the blasphemous acts against Islam by European leaders and organizations. In Lahore, JI Secretary General Ameerul Azim led the protest in front of Mansoorah and showered praises for the young Muslim who interrupted the attempt through his brave act. [THE NEWS INTERNATIONAL] Read more

22 November 2019

OIC chief demands international law to criminalize Islamophobia

Announcing plans for the celebration of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) 50th anniversary in Jeddah on Monday, its secretary-general called for a global crackdown on individuals or groups responsible for “insulting religions or prophets.”

Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen told Arab News: “There are laws against anti-Semitism and racism. So, we request a law against mocking religions.”

In a report released by the OIC, he said that modernization and the Internet revolution had turned the world into a “global village” where religions and cultures should coexist, and races and nations must live side by side as neighbors.

“Islamophobia is a sentiment of excessive fear against Islam that is transformed into acts of intolerance and discriminations against Muslims and even violent crimes against people with Islamic attires.”

.... “These issues are of great importance, to be worked on in collaboration not only with governments, but also with people and non-profit organizations, to prove to everyone that Islam is the voice of mercy, moderation and coexistence with Muslims and non-Muslims,” he added. [Microsoft News] Read more

Outrage in Pakistan after feminism panel includes no women

The Arts Council of Pakistan has been forced to backtrack after it emerged that a discussion on feminism it is hosting was to have an all-male panel.

An outcry on social media resulted in two women guests being added, and Friday's event in Karachi was renamed.

The original title, Feminism: The Other Perspective, drew derision and has now been recast as Understanding Feminism.

Organisers say male decision-makers were to share views on feminism, but many critics questioned the very idea.

In overwhelmingly patriarchal Pakistan, having an all-male panel discuss feminism didn't seem the obvious way to tackle gender inequality.

The only woman included in the original line-up was discussion host Uzma al-Karim, whose name was put at the bottom of the promotional literature. [BBC] Read more

20 November 2019

Conservative councillor suspended after Islamophobia allegation

A Conservative councillor is being investigated by the party over an allegation of Islamophobia.

Mary Sherwin has been suspended from the Bosworth Conservative Association after a complaint was made against her.

The former Leicestershire county councillor said she had been unaware of the specifics of the complaint against her until she was contacted by LeicestershireLive.

She said the letter she had received said only that it was alleged she had discriminated against someone.

However, it is understood the allegation relates to an encounter with a Muslim party member outside an internal meeting in the summer.

The Burbage parish councillor and former police authority member denied the allegation, saying she was upset that it had been made against her. [LeicestershireLive] Read more

Iran's Crimes against Humanity, 2019

"As Iranian, Saudi and other Muslim women around the globe struggled for freedom from the hijab, which they consider a political symbol that has nothing to do with piety, the reaction among the liberal circles in the West was confounding. Here an increasing number of feminists, leftists and the liberal media glorified the hijab as some exotic symbol of women's liberation that had to be embraced." — Tarek Fatah, The Toronto Sun, August 29, 2019

"The Guards are gathering to remove reformists from power." — Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Iranian journalist, Financial Times, October 13, 2019.

The anti-corruption campaign is led by none other than the hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi.... Raisi is widely considered the most likely cleric to succeed to the role of Supreme Leader when Khamenei retires or dies. But Raisi also carries with him a disturbing reputation for judicial violence. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Asia Bibi lawyer vows to keep working in Pakistan despite risks

A lawyer who represented a Christian woman given a death sentence in Pakistan after being convicted of blasphemy says he aims to keep working despite risks to his life.

Saif ul-Malook (pictured above right), who helped get Asia Bibi's conviction overturned, has told lawyers and academics in London that he is involved with another blasphemy case in Pakistan.

He told a seminar chaired by a London-based barrister that no Christian accused of blasphemy could get a fair trial in Pakistan.

Ms Bibi, a Pakistani, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed after she drank from the same well as Muslim co-workers. She was held for eight years before her conviction was overturned by the Pakistani Supreme Court. She now lives in Canada.

Mr ul-Malook, who is also Pakistani, aired his thoughts at a seminar, staged to discuss freedom of religion in Pakistan and chaired by barrister Zimran Samuel, during a visit to London.

He said that when he took up Ms Bibi's case no one would help him because they thought they would not be safe in his company. [PREMIER CHRISTIAN RADIO] Read more